Lifesaving Anniversary: Tahlequah Woman Donates Kidney To Former TU Coach

Thursday, May 2nd 2019, 6:59 pm
By: Jonathan Huskey

Last week was the one-year anniversary of one incredibly selfless act in the college basketball world. It's been a year since Tahlequah's Ericka Downey donated her kidney to Billy Gillispie, a man she had never met.

Now, she may be down a kidney, but she's added a family member. 

"I feel great. Really, I can't tell a difference at all from before surgery to now," said Ericka Downey. 

"It's been a whirlwind of a year, but you wouldn't know looking back that we weren't close before. We spent Christmas in Texas with him and his sisters," she said.

Downey and Gillispie met in person for the first time at the 2018 Final Four. 

"I really didn't know what to expect. There weren't really any expectations other than just getting to say hello to a person that I had committed to," Downey said.

"It was definitely an emotional experience, just to pull it all together and see the story unfold to that point." 

Related Story: 'Ultimate Sacrifice' Made For Former TU Coach 

Surgery went as well as could be, and Downey was quickly back to every day life. She leaned on her family when needed, and they quickly adjusted as well.

"I don't think my kids really even talk about it anymore. It's just kind of been like, 'Oh, Mom did this,'" Downey said.

"My husband's been an incredible support. He tied my shoes when I couldn't. He's really been there through it all." 

And Gillispie is doing just as well. 

"His labs are completely normal; mine are completely normal. He played in the junior college national championship game this year. He was named the Junior College National Coach of the Year.

"We're flourishing, and that's really all I could ask," she said.